The Jerusalem Scrolls (Michael Dominic #8), by Gary McAvoy

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Gary McAvoy for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

After a number of successful thrillers centred around religious history and antiquities, Gary McAvoy is back with his latest novel. Having been handed an ARC, I was pleased to get an early look at what McAvoy has been planning, as he helps his protagonist, Father Michael Dominic, in yet another adventure that hints at revealing more about the roots of Christianity, with a modern twist. McAvoy is stellar in his delivery and peppers fact and fiction throughout, forcing the reader to pay close attention as they attempt to splice truth from fanciful dream. Surely one of his best novels to date, which will keep series fans rushing back for more!

When two young boys discover a red clay jar in a hidden cave near the city of Qumran, they could not dream of what might be inside. Several scrolls are soon identified as being written by the Essenes two millennia before, depicting events before the Great Jewish Revolt, which includes talk of the Lost Treasures of Solomon, scattered across Jerusalem. All of these discoveries parallel some of the information from the Copper Scroll, found in the Dead Sea region back in 1947. Amongst this new collection is a scroll with writings from St. Paul himself, which could rewrite much of the core beliefs of early Christianity..

After Father Michael Dominic and some of his friends are called to Jerusalem to investigate these scrolls, it becomes clear just how serious things could be. While not on a mission for the Vatican, there is a sense of decorum and Dominic brings all the passion from his past adventures into this one. While Dominic and a long-time friend from his seminary days want to examine the scrolls and learn how the findings could influence Christianity and the Church, there are others in play who have a mission all their own.

A small sect known as the Mithraists—the chief rival to Christianity in the region until the fourth century—wants nothing to do with the scrolls or their findings and takes it upon itself to ensure it is lost forever. A televangelist with personal ambitions arrives in the region to ensure that he alone will bring the news of a new angle to Christianity and house the scrolls in his personal museum. Even the Isaraeli and Egyptian governments weigh in, wanting their piece of the pie. All this while Father Dominic tries to stay one step ahead of those with nefarious intentions.

With action and adventure, peppered with moments of dire trouble and dangerous clashes with those who will stop at nothing for their own outcome, Father Michael Dominic must discover what St. Paul had to say and how it could redefine Jesus and the heart of Christianity into the 21st century. Gary McAvoy does a sensational job in yet another thriller that is sure to leave the reader excited to see where things are going and exhausted from the journey found herein.

When I first discovered the work of Gary McAvoy, I was eager to see how an author would depict something with clear Christian undertones without making it preachy. Not only has McAvoy nailed the thriller genre, but his use of religious and regional history is highly educational without getting ‘soap box sermon-like’. McAvoy wants to educate and show the reader how much we don’t know, which he does through the guise of using Father Michael Dominic’s curiosities for all things historically Christian. There is nothing like a McAvoy story to leave the reader with many questions, as they flip to the back to see just how much is fact and where McAvoy uses creative freedoms.

The narrative flow of this book is not only strong because it points the way, but also because of its rich depiction of all things historical. There is so much to learn about the three Abrahamic religions, as well as the region where it all began. McAvoy imbues his stories with this and helps the reader grasp the intensity of the scrolls’ discovery, as well as the overall impact on many things. Strong characters, each of which flavour the piece in their own way, offer some great contrasts between the differing cultures and mindsets, be it about antiquities in general or regional politics and the possession of sacred knowledge. Plot twists occur throughout and find themselves wrapped in historical events, as well as moments when the thrills are at their highest. McAvoy has a wonderful handle on it all, yet is able to compact things into a quick read that many readers will devour in short order. For those who have yet to discover Gary McAvoy, this is your chance to do so. Start from the beginning to get the proper context and let your imagination soar as you deserve just how little Christianity in 2023 relates to things at the time of its inception.

Kudos, Mr. McAvoy, for another stellar ride through history and proof that there is so much we have yet to truly know about those early days in the Holy Lands.

The Avignon Affair (Vatican Secret Archives #4), by Gary McAvoy and Ronald L. Moore

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Gary McAvoy for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Gary McAvoy is back with more stellar writing, the primary reason I rushed to read the latest novel in the Vatican Secret Archive series. McAvoy again collaborates with Ronald L. Moore and they examine a new mystery that forces Father Michael Dominic to pull out all the stops, while evil forcers seek to take full advantage. McAvoy and Moore guide readers through a historical event shrouded in secrecy and show how a modern happening could be directly tied to its interpretation. With politics, action, and a little romantic triangulation, McAvoy and Moore offer up a cryptic story that is sure entertain a great cross-section of readers.

While in Paris for a funeral, Father Michael Dominic is called to Notre Dame Cathedral for a mysterious reason. A crypt said to hold the body of a fourteenth-century bishop has been recovered during restoration processes. What’s odd is that the skeleton has a cardinal’s ring on one finger and has two parchments hidden within the vestments. Baffled as to who it might have been and what secrets the parchments might hold, Father Dominic is asked to take them back to the Vatican to investigate.

All the while, major acts of terror rock the streets of Paris and its outskirts, proving that there is instability within the government. A high-ranking aristocrat calls for the French president to step down and allow the democratic process to choose his successor, while the country stands in awe. In a political vacuum, anything goes and this could be the perfect time for anarchy to reign supreme.

While Father Dominic seeks to better understand their mystery before him, a new King of France emerges and tries to wrest control of the country away from the political leaders, who have themselves sought to impose martial law; leaving little space for anything democratic to flourish. It’s only when Father Dominic uncovers some of the key mysteries about the body and parchments that France’s political turmoil becomes a little clearer and the play for power is central to the story.

As Father Dominic deciphers what is before him and France is torn, glimpses of what might be come to the surface, both for the country and with some of those with ties to the Vatican. Will something that took place during a temporary seat of the Pope prove to be the end to the Vatican as we know it, taking a country down with it? McAvoy and Moore weave a scintillating story that adds to the greatness this series has produced to date.

My relationship with Gary McAvoy’s writing began when he asked me to read his debut piece of fiction, which gripped me from the outset. The numerous themes develop a Vatican that proves complex and multi-layered, even when events take place well outside of Rome. McAvoy brings Ronald L. Moore back to collaborate, which proves a great choice, as the story finds new depth and complexity without getting overly heavy. Great character development, especially with the key people series fans know well, adds another aspect as to why the book should be read in short order.

There’s long been a spark surrounding this series, which exposes so many truths, fallacies, and ways to blend them together. The collaborative addition of Ronald L. Moore keeps the reader exploring new avenues of mystery while keeping themselves highly entertained. Laying the groundwork from the opening chapter, the narrative develops with each page, balancing historical happenings with modern goings-on, all of which culminates in a strong story that pulls the reader in. Explosive revelations, both political and religious, add depth to a series that has never lacked for adventure. Strong characters, particularly those who are back yet again and build on their past, help create an emotional connection for the reader. While there were some tense moments in the last novel about whether things might be coming to a close, the authors have spun new themes to keep the series going without any sign of letting up.

Kudos, Messrs. McAvoy and Moore, for another great piece in the series. I await your next adventure!

And Every Word is True, by Gary McAvoy

Eight stars

After reading In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, I wanted to know a little more about the subject matter. Interestingly enough, I was given a book by an author friend of mine, which recounts his research and analysis into the story of the Clutter murders and how the truth was much more complicated than first revealed in Capote’s stellar book. Gary McAvoy sought to turn the hunt for the real story behind those slayings in 1959 into this wonderful piece of non-fiction. Riveting until the final page turn, McAvoy shows how versatile his writing can be, as this is nothing like those novels of his I have come to enjoy over the past few years.

White Truman Capote’s most popular book surely stirred up some interesting emotions since its publication in 1965, many are left to wonder if it is the full story. When Ron Nye reached out to Gary McAvoy, the two hit it off immediately and their thirst for knowledge around the slaying of the Clutter family began. Nye, son of the former head of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, had some documents that his father kept from the crimes, which told not only the public version of events that Capote documented in his book, but deeper and more troubling ideas. Nye and McAvoy worked tirelessly to peel things back and discover truths relating to the murders, the victims, as well as the two men collared for committing the crimes.

While all this seems reasonable and should open up new lines of communication, it would seem that Kansas officials wanted nothing to do with the investigation, nor were they forthcoming about releasing documents held under lock and key. As McAvoy posits, it was as though they did not want to truth to come out. The author delves deeper into the goings-on in the small Kansas town and makes some substantiated assumptions about how the Clutters lived their lives and the popularity they had around the community. There are also some curious discussions about how Dick Hickock and Perry Smith might have been raised to turn them into killers. These men were surely cold-blooded killers, but there is more to the story that never made it into Capote’s book. McAvoy shines a light on them and their motive throughout the latter portion of the tome.

McAvoy does not seek to smear anyone, or even point fingers at a cover-up, but the push back for information makes it clear that there are many who feel the case is closed and best left that way. Some might surmise that Kansas officials felt Capote’s piece went about as far as it should have in revealing what happened on that November night in 1959, choosing not to allow any further extrapolation to open new veins of analysis. The truth is out there and yet it seems stymied by some unspoken reason that McAvoy could not crack.

While I am so used to the Vatican style thrillers that Gary McAvoy has penned, I was highly impressed with this piece of non-fiction. It sought not to turn over stones for the sake of making a ruckus, but actually connect dots that have long been left hidden or unanswered. McAvoy presents his findings in a clear and concise manner, allowing the reader to follow what is going on with ease throughout. I am glad that I read In Cold Blood recently, as the arguments from that book are fresh in my mind, allowing me to draw needed parallels whenever possible and see how McAvoy connected his research to the public record. I am coming to really enjoy true crime and will have to read more of it, when time permits. McAvoy surely made this an interesting experience and he forced me to stop waiting around wondering about Truman Capote’s famous work.

Kudos, Mr. McAvoy, for opening my eyes to many of the happenings in this case of which I was not familiar. I am eager to see what else I can find to whet my appetite.

The Petrus Prophecy (Vatican Secret Archives #3), by Gary McAvoy and Ronald L. Moore

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Gary McAvoy for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Gary McAvoy never ceases to amaze with his stellar writing, one of the reasons I rushed to begin the latest novel in the Vatican Secret Archive series, featuring Father Michael Dominic. As McAvoy collaborates with Ronald L. Moore, they examine yet another mystery housed within the Vatican, while sinister forces seek to push the limits once again. McAvoy and Moore guide readers through a historical event shrouded in secrecy, providing plausible possibilities, which only amp up the level of curiosity. The story of the Secrets of Fatima is one known to many Catholics around the world. When Pope John Paul II revealed the third secret in 2000, he did so to dispel much of the hype that had built up over the past forty years, when his predecessors began refusing to share the secret with the general public. Now, an American priest and scholar is dead, and a group known as the Knights of the Apocalypse (KOTA) claim that the End Times are nigh, as they prepare to reveal the true text of the secret. Father Michael Dominic is pulled into the middle, seeking to find the true document and ensure the sitting pope is privy to its meaning, so that the Church can face its enemies, including those from within. McAvoy and Moore do a sensational job with the action and posit some intriguing possibilities for the reader to synthesise.

When three children saw a vision of the Holy Mother in 1917, their small Portuguese town was put on the map. The Three Secrets of Fatima became one of the major miracles chronicled by the Church. Two of the three secret, depicting premonitions, were revealed, though the third, so shocking and scandalous, was never publicly shared. Popes shied away from it, as its truths, speaking of the End of Days, were too problematic. Seeking to dilute the gossip and wonder, Pope John Paul II shed light on the secret in 2000, though many believe it was a false message meant to extinguish flames of speculation and curiosity.

When a priest and scholar working on a piece about the truth surrounding the Third Secret is found murdered in Chicago, a local police constable cannot help but wonder if there is a Vatican connection. When the name of Father Michael Dominic enters the discussion, said constable is keen to learn more from the man who heads the Vatican Secret Archives. A trip to Rome is in order, where the constable connects with one of her Italian counterparts to open an international investigation.

After approaching Father Dominic, he is just as confused as they are, but soon learns that there is more to the story than meets the eye. During the nefarious past few years, it would seem that the sitting pope was not given access to a key collection of documents, which include the Third Secret of Fatima. All the while, a group calling itself the Knights of the Apocalypse (KOTA) begins broadcasting news that they are in the possession of the Secret and will soon reveal it. This pushes Catholics around the world into a panic and places the Vatican on the defensive.

While Father Dominic and his core team race around Europe to locate a key that will grant the sitting pope access to a safe that contains the true documents, they are followed by those who would rather see them dead. Dominic soon learns how important these documents could be, as well as the importance to obtain the truth before KOTA wrestles control of the Vatican’s trust away from the world at large. What neither Dominic nor the sitting pope can know is just how far some people will go to discredit the Vatican hierarchy once and for all, tied to a handful of men who have been eyeing revenge for years. A brilliant addition to the series, which presents new layers of wonder related to Catholic truths and secrecy within the Holy See.

I have followed Gary McAvoy on this Vatican journey from the opening pages of the debut novel, which gripped me like few other series I have read. Many themes point to a Vatican that remains complex and multi-layered, which mirrors the Catholic Church in general. McAvoy brings Ronald L. Moore in as a collaborator, allowing them to find ways to bring the story to life and create gripping adventures, layered with historical events. The characters grow on the series reader as each story connects seamlessly. The authors provide a great series for all to enjoy, particularly the reader with an interest in all things Vatican.

Father Michael Dominic resumes his role as protagonist of the series, continuing to make his mark. His backstory remains complex and evolving, as series fans have come to discover. Devout in his faith, Dominic enjoys his work within the Vatican Archives, though he finds mysteries outside the walls of the Holy See that keep him constantly on the run. Danger appears to surround him, though he evades it with prowess, rather than pure brawn. The series has moved into some intriguing times, leaving the reader to wonder how Dominic will fit into the larger narrative, particularly with his revelation in the closing pages.

Gary McAvoy has long created a buzz around his stories and the collaborative effort with Ronald L. Moore once again puts the reader in the middle of the action. The narrative develops with each passing chapter, providing mysteries and curiosities sure to leave the reader hungering for more. As the authors intertwiine modern events with historical goings-on, explosive revelations add depth to an already strong foundation. Well-crafted characters, particularly those who reappear and build on their past developments, help create an emotional connection for the reader. While the theme may be the End of Days, once can hope McAvoy (and Moore?) have more to say on the matter, as things have reached a tense point in the series, with an obvious fork in the road towards future developments.

Kudos, Messrs. McAvoy and Moore, for another great piece in the series. You have captivated me yet again!

The Opus Dictum (Father Michael Dominic #5), by Gary McAvoy

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Gary McAvoy for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Always eager to read the work of Gary McAvoy, I rushed to begin the latest featuring Father Michael Dominic, which did not disappoint. Exploring another angle of Vatican-based politics and sinister goings-on, McAvoy takes readers through a historical event and provides strong modern action to support it. In this case, all relates to a more recent event, where a mysterious briefcase finds itself in the Vatican Archives. What it contains could not only reveal the existence of a powerful group thought defunct, but also change the path of the Catholic Church forever. It will be up to a handful of dedicated individuals to stop this before it’s too late. Another winner by Gary McAvoy that will have those ho love a good thriller on the edge of their seats.

It was early morning one June day in 1982 that Roberto Calvi was discovered hanging under a bridge in London. A man with quite the reputation, some called Calvi “God’s Banker,” for his ties to the Vatican Bank, though it was some of his other connections that left many to wonder if he had upset the wrong person. Missing from the scene was an important briefcase Calvi had the night before, filled with important documents that could cause a great stir if they were revealed. The mystery was never solved, leaving many to wonder if these incriminating documents might still be out there.

Fast forwarding to today, Father Michael Dominic is excited to have a new assistant working with him in the Vatican Archives. There are so many documents in need of reviewing and digitizing that he cannot be sure where to begin. When the Calvi briefcase turns up, it opens quite the conundrum for all involved. Father Dominic knows a little about the briefcase and upon discovering some of its contents, he is eager to learn more. There is proof that a powerful Catholic organisation, Opus Deus, and an outlawed Masonic group P2, have been working together. Not only that, but a safe deposit key could hold the answers to a great deal more.

Working as quietly as they can, Father Dominic and his team try to uncover the mysteries from the briefcase, discovering a cache of diamonds and gold, as well as digital breadcrumbs to more. Before they can make their move, others learn of the discovered cache and make their move to get it back, hopefully to silence any chance that the secret will come to light.

While Father Dominic must head to Geneva to help rescue an old friend, one of his nemeses finds a way out of prison and plots revenge on the priest. With the backing of Opus Deus and P2, Father Dominic’s life could be in danger, especially with what he knows. Upon the discovery of a document called the ‘Opus Dictum’, a truly horrifying plan could soon be in motion, which will deeply change the Catholic Church for the foreseeable future. After the surprise announcement of a new conclave—the election of a pope—causes a stir, Father Dominic knows that his time is limited. Should the Opus Dictum come to fruition, the face of the Church will forever change, and not likely for the better. As cardinals gather and the ceremony begins, two men stand at odds and hope to become the new voice for the Church. Gary McAvoy does a sensational job with this piece and left me eager for more. I cannot wait to see where things go from here.

I have followed Gary McAvoy on this journey since its inception and never found myself straying. The themes that emerge are on point and I am regularly pulled in by the approach of his plot lines. The Vatican is a complex and multi-layered organisation, as is the Catholic Church in general. McAvoy finds ways, through history and artifacts, to bring the story to life and create thrilling adventures for all to enjoy. His characters grow exponentially throughout and the stories connect well together. This is a series that gains momentum with each novel and never seems to lose its way.

Father Michael Dominic continues to impress as the protagonist of the series. His backstory is a little complicated, as series fans will know well, but it is matched by some of the awkwardness he hides in the present that keeps it all highly exciting. A devout Catholic who loves working in the Archives, Dominic finds mysteries fuel him and will stop at nothing to uncover the truth before him. While he may not hunt out danger, there are those around him who seem to attract it, creating an adventurous journey through each of the novels in this series. I am eager to see, with some of the revelations made in this book, how things will change for Father Dominic moving forward and whether there will be a significant shift in his role.

The key to a strong thriller novel is whether the reader can feel themselves begin a part of the action, rather than a passive bystander. Gary McAvoy creates an electric buzz around his stories and puts the reader right in the middle of everything that is going on. His narrative builds with each passing chapter, developing more mysteries and curiosities, while the plot twists repeatedly to keep anyone from knowing exactly what will happen. Intertwining modern events with historical goings-on makes for an explosive story that could go one of many directions. Strong characters, particularly those who reappear and build on their past developments, help create an emotional connection for the reader, as they are swept up in everything that is taking place. While McAvoy packed this book with history and highly descriptive settings, I know this is not the end. While I will have to patiently wait for the next instalment, it will surely be well worth it to see how things continue to play out for all involved.

Kudos, Mr. McAvoy, for another stunning story. You never cease to amaze me with your writing.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Vivaldi Cipher, by Gary McAvoy

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Gary McAvoy for providing me with a copy of this novel, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Gary McAvoy returns to continue building on his previous series, though the shift away from all things Magdalene has not lessened the impact of the writing. There is still a great deal to discover in the secret archives of the Vatican and who better to bring them to light than Father Michael Dominic. It was during the election of the new pontiff in the mid-18th century that famed violinist Antonio Vivaldi came to learn a dreadful secret, one that could scandalize the Holy See for centuries. Using his skills in musical composition, Vivaldi hid a message in his music, hoping that it would be found and those responsible revealed. Today, Father Dominic comes upon one of these compositions and enlists some help to crack the code. Soon, a long-held secret that will surely tarnish the Vatican comes to light. However, its revelation comes at a price, specifically the ire of a powerful branch of the Italian mob. Dominic will have to stay one step ahead of these ruthless men to ensure the truth is revealed, but staying alive may be a larger concern.

While many would expect the election of a new pope to be a wonderful thing, the papal concave of 1740 held more problems than simply who would be the best candidate. Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, the obvious front-runner is poisoned, holding onto the knowledge of something sinister. He confesses to Antonio Vivaldi, the famed violinist of the times, on his deathbed. Worried that his own life could be in danger, but refusing to sit on the secret, Vivaldi weaves a cipher into some of his manuscripts, in hopes that someone will learn the truth about the artwork scattered throughout the Vatican collection before it is too late.

In present day, a priest takes a confession of a dying mafia don, one who has chilling news about the Vatican’s art collection. This stirs up some curiosity, which is furthered when curator of the Vatican’s Secret Archives, Father Michael Dominic, stumbles upon one of the Vivaldi compositions. With the help of Hana Sinclair, a sharp-witted journalist, and a famed cryptologist, Dr. Livia Gallo, they all learn the message Vivaldi wished to broadcast. It would seem much of the artwork within the Holy See is forged and a powerful mafia organization, Camorra, continues to run the ring to this day.

Dominic, Sinclair and Gallo slowly uncover the truth, which leads them to one of Vivaldi’s descendants, Contessa Donatella Vivaldi herself. While visiting the woman in Venice, much is revealed and truths begin to emerge. However, this is only the beginning, as Camorra cannot have their operation foiled or the truth about the secret come to light. It’s been running smoothly for centuries and some meddlesome priest will not halt the lucrative business because he wants to ‘do right’ with his employer.

Dominic and Sinclair enlist the help of their friends in the Swiss Guard to delve deeper and uncover those responsible. This is no small feat and it’s soon discovered that with such secrets come battles to the death. As Dominic pushes ahead, his mettle is tested, particularly when Hana is captured and assured she will die. While most of the art world is none the wiser, Father Dominic must risk it all for the woman who is a friend and a truth that must come out! McAvoy picks up just where his past series ended with this chilling piece that I could not put down, no matter what obstacles tried to find their way in my path.

It was just last summer that I discovered the work of Gary McAvoy and I have not been able to say enough about him since. Using a backdrop of the Vatican, McAvoy pens a wonderful series of thrillers that push mysteries beyond what most writers would concoct and keeps the reader guessing until the end. Use of two forms of art in this piece make for added thrills in a book that tries to serve as a standalone, but is also wonderfully complements McAvoy’s past trilogy. I cannot get enough of these books, as my binge reading has proven repeatedly.

The Dominic-Sinclair connection is back and both play wonderful protagonists again. They work together well, while complementing one another in numerous ways. McAvoy avoids more backstory for them, choosing instead to push these two deeper into their roles as sleuths who seek answers amongst the dust-landed documents inside the Secret Archives. There is surely a damsel in distress portion, but it’s not because Sinclair is weak or helpless. Rather, the ruthless group knows just how to find Dominic’s Achilles heel, even if he is not yet ready to admit it.

As with each of the three previous books, those who grace the pages of the book both complement and accentuate the protagonists. There are a number of great repeat characters whose supporting role cannot be overlooked. Alongside those names and faces series fans know well are the darker characters, those who wish nothing more than to flex their muscle and show that they will do whatever it takes to see secrets kept and lives sacrificed for the caused. McAvoy does a great job contrasting the good and evil, without the need for salacious killing or language.

As I read the book, I could not help but wonder if this could be the continuation of the past series. It flows so well and keeps the same pace I found in each of the Magdalene thrillers, but seeks to branch out a little. Father Dominic is back in the limelight and using his vocation to bring new adventures to light, even if they are filled with danger. McAvoy concocts a wonderful thriller with a powerful narrative push that is like few books I have seen before. Short chapters and clipped dialogue keep the reader pushing ahead, fuelled by a plot that is full of twists at every turn. I could not stop reading and found myself bingeing just to get through this book, more out of addiction to the story than anything else. Those who have yet to discover Gary McAvoy ought to begin with his Magdalene trilogy, though I suppose this could serve as a standalone (but why would you want to shortchanged yourself?). I cannot wait to see what’s next, as I will be first in queue to get my hands on it.

Kudos, Mr. McAvoy, for another winner. You sure know how to spin a tale, with equal parts mystery and historical possibility.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Magdalene Veil (Magdalene Chronicles #3), by Gary McAvoy

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Gary McAvoy for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Always eager to get my hands on anything penned by Gary McAvoy, I was pleased to be handed an ARC of his latest novel, the final in the electrifying Magdalene Chronicles trilogy. While Father Michael Dominic and Hana Sinclair have been busy uncovering old biblical-era mysteries, there are some who want the secrets and possessions all for themselves. In this last piece, an old relic appears to have fallen into the hands of the Nazis, stowed away for decades. Now, a group seeking to revive old Aryan roots wants to utilise the artifact to create new and impactful change to the world. In a piece that spans two continents, McAvoy takes readers on his most intense journey yet. Perfect for those who have devoured the previous two novels, as well as the reader who needs a book that is unputdownable!

On his way to his execution, Jesus was stopped by a woman who helped wipe away his blood and sweat with a veil from around her head. Thankful for the act, Christ does so before being led to Calvary for his crucifixion. The woman, a devout follower, passes the veil along to Mary Magdalene, who ensures it is placed within the tomb where Christ is buried. When his disciples find the tomb empty three days later, there is the veil, complete with a facial outline of Jesus.

During the era of the Nazis, this veil was touted to be exactly what they needed to push forward and seek to vilify the Jews even more. When the veil was obtained by Heinrich Himmler, he made sure to stow it away in a secret location and left a riddle so that the next generation would be able to find it, though not with any ease. His plan was surely to revive the Aryan race through its most prominent member, Christ himself.

While in France for some educational purposes, Father Michael Dominic is approached by a young man purporting to be in possession of some significant information that could be of interest to the Vatican. Dominic soon learns that there is a diary of Heinrich Himmler that could reveal something significant. The young man, who admits his grandfather was a high-ranking Nazi who fled to Argentina, wishes to learn the secrets in the diary and perhaps uncover what is said to be a relic from the time of Christ.

Never one to turn down a historical mystery, Father Dominic broaches the subject with his friend, Hana Sinclair, whose job as a journalist is rooted in uncovering mysteries of all kinds. Working together, they locate the diary, which leads them to Argentina. They learn of a group, the Ahnenerbe, who pose as a social group, but have strong ties to Nazi-era membership. Whispers about possible neo-Nazi revival cannot be dismissed either. When Dominic and Sinclair are able to piece together the riddle left by Himmler, they learn that the secret, the Magdalene Veil, is hidden in an old German castle that was once a Nazi training ground.

Keen to retrieve the article for the Vatican, Dominic and Sinclair make arrangements to have it removed and brought to the Holy See. However, there are some who want it for themselves and will stop at nothing to retrieve it. When it falls into the hands of the Ahnenerbe, they hope to use it for their own means, as they develop a Kinderklinik, a place to foster a new era of neo-Nazis under the radar, while also using new techniques to begin genetic experiments. With the Veil in their possession, this group has plans to extract something and turn the Church on its head, while reviving old sentiments that will surely tear the post-War world apart anew.

While Father Dominic and Hana Sinclair are held captive, they learn that a high-ranking Vatican member might be pulling the strings to allow this power play, which could only ruin centuries of Church control of the message. It will take much determination and some key messaging to foil the plot and key the Magdalene Veil safely in the hands of those who cherish it, and wish to keep it secret once again. An explosive end to the series, but which direction will it take and how will the world change when all is revealed?

I stumbled upon the first book in this series last summer and could not put it down. When Gary McAvoy reached out to me to read the next two novels, I pushed all my other reading commitments to the side so that I could dive right in. I was thrilled and devoured the stories, as they tell such an alluring tale, so much so that I was up well into the night to flip pages and discover what was to come of the protagonists. It is that sort of story and a series not to be missed by those who love biblical mysteries of a kind.

Father Michael Dominic reprises his role as protagonist and does a masterful job. While his backstory is left mostly in the previous novels, the reader can see great development of his character throughout this piece. There is a gritty determination throughout, as he mixes his archivist past with a penchant for being a sleuth. His connections serve him well throughout this piece, though it is a sense of wanting to protect the Vatican that shines through, pitting secrets against keeping the peace for the Church.

McAvoy creates strong supporting characters throughout, using many of those who grace the pages of the book to connect the dots in history, as well as the revival of the neo-Nazi movement. There is a richness, not only in the characters, but also the history of which they speak, which flavours the narrative effectively and conveys the seriousness of the mission at hand. Spanning three eras, these characters tell a story that will pull the reader deeper into the plot as all is revealed in a timely manner.

The story was perhaps the more electrifying of the three novels, putting a sense of urgency front and centre. McAvoy’s ability to spin a tale is second to none and there were times I wished I had binge-read all three books back to back, if only to reconnect with all the nuances that appear in the text. However, this book packs enough punch and history to have kept me intrigued throughout. McAvoy uses short chapters to keep the reader propelling forward, peppering in history and anecdotes throughout to assuage the curious while still keeping a degree of mystery. The narrative moved at breakneck speed and there is little time for the reader to relax, as the story is not one that meanders at any point. McAvoy’s use of local language (Spanish, German, etc) helps to inject a sense of realism to the story, leaving the reader to feel as though they were right there. While things do come together in the end, it is the sense of panic and ‘what could be’ that keeps the reader wondering well after closing the book’s cover. McAvoy does ensure that those who wonder where fiction and fact come together are calmed with an Author’s Note to discuss it all. I can only hope that McAvoy has something similar for his next writing assignment, as I am hooked and want more of this sort of novel.

Kudos, Mr. McAvoy, for another stunning piece. With the trilogy done, I can only hope people will hear of these books and discover Father Michael Dominic for themselves. I am sure your fan base is about to swell very soon!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Magdalene Reliquary (Magdalene #2), by Gary McAvoy

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Gary McAvoy for providing me with a copy of this novel, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Having long been a fan of novels with Catholic and/or historical twists, I thoroughly enjoyed Gary McAvoy’s debut book in this series when I read it a few months ago. Now, with the sequel ready for publication, I eagerly accepted a copy to see how the adventure would continue. A new relic is hidden, news of scandalous proportions awaits, and a man is out to avenge the death of his father. All this and more in a single book. Perfect for readers who loved the first book or are searching for something thrilling!

Father Michael Dominic has been enjoying his work as Prefect of the Secret Archives within the Vatican, dealing with some of the most sensitive documents the Church has in its possession. When he is asked to help with a research project, Dominic collects some old manuscripts and uncovers a 13th century puzzle that could be highly important.

After consulting his friend, Swiss journalist Hana Sinclair, Dominic realises what he’s got in his possession. It’s a map of a cave that is said to possess a valuable reliquary once owned by Mary Magdelene. Eager to see it for himself, Dominic convinces two members of the Swiss Guard to accompany him as they troll through the cave.

Unbeknownst to Dominic, his safety may soon be in jeopardy. Recently banished Cardinal Dante has a bone to pick with Dominic, who cost him the prized position of Vatican Secretary of State. Dante reveals that Dominic was involved in a raid that cost a powerful Croat his life. Now, the man’s son seeks revenge and is happy to destroy Dominic any way we can. Ivan Gović learns of Dominic’s cave adventure and plans to kill the priest while collecting the reliquary for himself.

While Dominic and his crew head to France to follow the map’s direction, Dante begins plotting his own return to power by blackmailing the one man who stands in his way. What Dante learns will not only shock the upper ranks of Vatican membership, but could ruin a man’s life as well. With little regard for anyone else, Cardinal Dante makes his move and waits for the dominoes to fall.

Inside the cave, Dominic retrieves the reliquary and notices an important message on its side; one that could change the face of Christianity. However, before he’s able to leave the cave, Gović and his henchmen arrive to collect the prize and seek to block the exit. With Dominic trapped in the cave, it could mean his end, once and for all.

News of the reliquary causes a stir in certain circles, especially once the contents are verified. Gović is sent on a final mission that could earn him great financial wealth, but it will not be as easy as it seems.

With pure determination, Dominic finds a way out of the cave, but still needs to get his hands on the reliquary before it can be sold off and hidden away anew. It will take much grit and determination to find Gović and ensure these secrets do not end up in the wrong hands. It’s a race across Europe and no one is entirely sure where they’re headed next!

Gary McAvoy has not only a great deal of skill when it comes to writing, but also knows how to spin a tale that will keep the reader wanting to know more. Mixing history, religion, politics, and science, McAvoy has crafted a thrilling piece of fiction that just may have some degree of reality buried in the narrative.

Michael Dominic plays a key role in this piece, serving as the quasi-protagonist. His determination to help uncover secrets is like no other. While the first book dealt with a lot of his backstory, there is a degree of that past that emerges in this piece as well. His focus on the prize, the reliquary, drives him throughout the book, though he remains clueless to some of the outside forces that seek to shape him. The interactions between Dominic and Hana Sinclair are obvious to the reader, but seem to fly over the head of the young priest, at least outwardly.

Hana Sinclair heads up a group of strong supporting characters in this piece. She remains determined to uncover the truth no matter what, using her skills and grit to stay one step ahead of everyone else. A number of other characters work well with the various subplots that emerge in the piece, all of which develop independently before coming together in the final pages. McAvoy does a wonderful job of populating his novel with credible characters, all of whom have their own missions.

When it comes to religious thrillers, there are times when the reader must suspend belief and go with what is being presented. McAvoy’s plot delves less into the biblically fanciful and deals primarily with what might actually happen. His story builds throughout and stays relatively plausible, keeping the reader guessing. There are aspects of politics and science, both of which are handled effectively, as well as portions that are straight thrills, perfect for the reader who wants an adventure. I am eager to see where McAvoy wants to take his novels from here, as he writes in such a way that the reader can never get enough. I suppose we’ll have to wait, but I know it will be worth it!

Kudos, Mr. McAvoy, for another stellar novel. Your gift of suspense does not go unnoticed and I hope others are as captivated as I was throughout this experience.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Magdalene Deception, by Gary McAvoy

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Gary McAvoy for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Always a fan of novels with Catholic and/or historical twists, this book by Gary McAvoy caught my eye as soon as I found it. Michael Dominic grew up in United States, without a father but under the watchful eye of one of the most powerful men in the Catholic Church. Having finished his seminary studies and been ordained, Dominic accepted a position within the Vatican as a researcher, where he was able to hone some of his other interests in medieval history. When he trips upon a cache of old documents, he hides them away from prying eyes in hopes of exploring them a little more, only to discover that they are written in quatrain form and speak of some fairly significant things. After speaking to a superior, Dominic meets a Swiss reporter, Hana Sinclair, who has travelled to the Holy See in order to follow a story from a Nazi-era interaction with the Vatican Bank. While their work is not necessarily complementary, Dominic and Sinclair find themselves in the middle of a third mystery, one centred in rural France where a priest was blackmailing the Vatican with a set of documents in his possession, back before the turn of the 20th century. Travelling there, Dominic is being tailed by a powerful enforcer who seeks to obtain the documents to uncover what is going on while trying to strengthen a Croatian political and religious order. When Dominic receives the document, he is able to translate them and discovers a secret from two thousand years ago, one that would truly rock the Church to its core. With a killer on his trail and needing to ensure the document is preserved, Dominic returns to the Vatican, only to find that he and Hana may have caused a major panic. A great thriller that weaves numerous storylines together effectively. Recommended to those who love a good thriller worth historical implications, as well as the reader who enjoys Vatican and Catholic politics.

There’s something about biblical revelations set against a fictional thriller that pulls me in every time. Be it the history or the politics of what entered the narrative of the biblical teachings, there is something there and loads of mystery behind what did not make it. McAvoy creates a wonderful story that never stops building throughout. His protagonist, Michael Dominic, comes from humble beginnings, but is never one to let that get him down. He finds ways to work within his limits and find true passion for all he enjoys doing, without needing to focus on the solitary of life as a priest. His grit and determination is on show here and keeps the reader connected to him throughout. Other characters offer some wonderful flavour to the overall narrative and keep things exciting, amongst all the twists and revelations. McAvoy captures the secrecy and deep-rooted history of the Vatican and its politics throughout this piece, with a strong story and plot that moves in many directions. While there is the inherent biblical document that is revealed, there is not too much of a focus on its gnostic or apocryphal nature, but more that it adds new depths to the narrative of the Church’s past decisions on how to portray the Christian story. With a mix of longer and short chapters, McAvoy pulls the reader in and keeps them guessing, while also refusing to place a damper on the action. Juggling modern and ancient Church issues, McAvoy does not lose his reader at any point, as his writing is so clear that the attentive reader will likely want more. I look forward to more by the author, with Michael Dominic or others in the protagonist’s seat.

Kudos, Mr. McAvoy, for this wonderful book. This may have been the first of your books that I have read, but it will not be the last.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: